Adenike Osofisan never intended to be a computer scientist.
Osofisan, MS Information and Computer Science 1979, was more interested in becoming a doctor—an impressive enough aspiration, given the number of girls who were even finishing secondary school in 1970s Nigeria. Moreover, the relatively new field of computer science wasn’t even on her radar.
But a high school guidance counselor encouraged her to study computer science as an ideal outlet for her inquisitive mind and penchant for problem solving. Osofisan followed her counselor’s advice and proceeded to become a national pioneer in the field.
‘First and the best’
Osofisan earned her undergraduate degrees from Nigeria’s University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). She then headed to America and became a Yellow Jacket for graduate school. Osofisan chose Georgia Tech for its graduate computer science programs and also for Atlanta’s geographic selling point.
“Atlanta’s weather was good for an African leaving home for the first time,” she says with a laugh.
Osofisan arrived in Atlanta in August 1978. She landed a job as a student assistant for the director of the Computing Center. That allowed her to pay in-state tuition and to avoid any work unrelated to her degree. Osofisan even ended up in Blueprint, the Georgia Tech student yearbook, pictured building a snowman with several friends. She finished her master’s degree in 12 months and knew what she had to do next.
“Nigeria needed my services,” Osofisan said. “There were very few Nigerians with good degrees in computer science.”
Upon her return, Osofisan began a lengthy career in academia. She first lectured at The Polytechnic Ibadan, a technical school, in Ibadan. Osofisan’s computer science advocacy began there. She secured accreditation for new academic programs in computer studies. Previously, such programs at the Polytechnics in Nigeria weren’t accredited, but the curriculum adopted by the Polytechnic Ibadan was eventually accepted nationwide.
Osofisan’s advocacy landed her a leadership position in curriculum review for all Nigerian technical schools. Simultaneously, she ascended through the ranks of Polytechnic lecturers, including a stint as head of the computer science department and dean of the Faculty of Science.
In 1989, Osofisan received a Ph.D. in computer science from Obafemi Awolowo University. She became the first Nigerian woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in computer science. That led to her becoming the first African female professor of computer science. Unfortunately, resistance from her male counterparts increased with each professional accomplishment.
She was often the only female representative on varied national councils. Male representatives on the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Computer Society forbade her from sitting at the high table during opening ceremonies of any council event.
Osofisan persevered. She was elected president and chairman of the Computer Professional Registration Council of Nigeria. The council sets standards for Nigerian computer education and regulates IT practices. She overcame an impeachment attempt and enacted significant changes to the organization, including recruiting many new female members.
Today, Osofisan is the director of the School of Business, the chair of the IT and Media Services Board, and a professor of computer science at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria’s first university.
“It has a long history of excellence in both teaching and research,” Osofisan said. “UI is fondly referred to as ‘the first and the best.’”
She has also served as Ibadan’s department head of computer science. The department has 20 faculty members, 10 of them women. No other computer science department in Nigeria has such equivalent representation.
“This was a deliberate policy I put in place when I became head of the department in 1999,” Osofisan said. “I went out looking for bright females and mentored them.”
Outside the classroom
Osofisan’s leadership isn’t limited to professional circles. She’s an active member of her grammar school’s alumni association, where she mentors and serves as a role model for the girls. Osofisan also participates in a variety of theological activities at the University of Ibadan and in her community.
Additionally, Osofisan is married to another professor—Femi Osofisan, who is a professor of theatre arts and well-known Nigerian writer. They have four children and seven grandchildren, who all enjoy traveling and visiting historical places.
The Georgia Tech Difference
Though Adenike hasn’t been to campus in more than 35 years, her Georgia Tech degree remains extremely important to her.
“It gave me the confidence I needed when I had to pioneer computer education in our polytechnics in Nigeria as soon as I returned home,” Osofisan said.
And, now, many other women and men follow in her footsteps.
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